Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and Memory

In class we have been discussing the different components of of working memory\short term memory and long term memory. Discussion how these processes work instantly made the disney fan in me think of Disney Pixar’s movie Inside Out and if how they represented the different memory processes in the movie are truly accurate to how we process memories. I decided to do a little research to see what others have found memory processing to be represented in the movie. After some ‘googling’ I actually found an article on Forbs.com that tries to explain and compare just that!

For those of you that think you are too old for the magic of Disney or have made some other excuse for not seeing this fantastic movie; Inside Out is about a girl named Riley who has just moved with her parents to a new home. The movie take place inside Riley’s mind where the main characters or her four main emotions (Joy, Disgust, Fear and Sadness) run the show and help to determine how Riley’s memories are formed. In the movie Sadness begins to cause mayhem so Joy travels through long term memory to try to fix things.

So how accurately does Inside Out represent memory?

Well, in the brain the part called the amygdala is know for the emotions we feel. In this movie sense the emotions run the show in a place they call Headquarters we might be able to assume this is the amygdala. When the emotions have a string reaction to one of Riley’s experiences they press a corresponding button to generate a memory of that experience in that emotion. For example, in the movie Riley tries pizza with broccoli on it and doesn’t like the broccoli so disgust presses her green button to form a memory of broccoli with the emotion of disgust. the memory then pops up as a little bubble colored with the corresponding memory (in this case a green bubble). The bobble then gets sent up a tube to join the other memories in long term memory. This process does have some accuracy to it. For memories to be transitioned into long term memory it often helps to associate an emotion with it to allow for deeper processing.

In the movie, longterm memory is made up of what would seem to be endless shelves of memories all coded with a different color to represent one of the four main emotions. In our brain long term memory isn’t necessarily stored in shelve like formation but more of scattered webs of information that link to one another; branching webs of neurons.

The movie also shows the emotions able to replay the memories from the formed memory bubbles perfectly like a recorded TV episode that wont ever change. As discussed in class, our memory recall is not perfectly accurate. According to the Forbes article “Research by American psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown that our minds can be manipulated via a ‘misinformation effect’ that implants false memories.” In reality we are unable to remember all the details of our memories can easily be forgotten or changed depending on the context we try to remember them. Unfortunately it is no where close to a recorded TV episode that we can rewind and replay whenever we would like.

Overall Inside out provides a good basic guideline for an understanding and a visual representation of memory and how it works. However, there are many differences in how our memory processing really works as to how it is shown in the movie.


Sill a great movie if you ask me! For more information or to read the Forbes article for yourself, click here

6 thoughts on “Disney Pixar’s Inside Out and Memory

  1. avchamp

    I absolutely love this post, mostly because Inside Out was a brilliant movie, but your commentary is very interesting as well! I really enjoyed reading about how the different processes in the brain are accurately represented in the movie (headquarters=amygdala). I would love to find out about how they are different in the movie versus real life, I might go and dig into it myself! I was actually wondering, if the bottom pit of nothingness where the one character of the memory disappears might be related to anything, if at all.

    1. jesseboles

      Your personality showed through your writing in this blog post, and I can tell you are really interested in this topic. I am a huge Disney fan as well so reading your blog post was entertaining. Your title jumped out at me and your first paragraph reeled me in. I am impressed with your connections from the movie to real life, especially how you said that the amygdala was represented as headquarters in the movie. Your post was relevant and intriguing. I enjoyed reading it.

    2. jesseboles

      I am also curious if there is a real life connection for the bottom pit of nothingness!

  2. Emily Busbee

    I was so excited when I saw the title of this blog post, mostly because Inside Out is one of my FAVORITE movies! Also I was curious to see how accurate this movie could be! It would be nice if we could pull out our memories from our minds perfectly, but like your blog post (and Dr. Rettinger stated) its not likely for our brains to remember events in our past EXACTLY how they happened. I really enjoyed this post!

  3. Autumn Trower

    First off, “Inside Out” is a great movie! Before I knew it had anything to do with Psychology or memory it seemed like a cute movie to take my niece to see and when I realized I made her (didn’t have to try that hard..) watch it with me a bunch more times. It’s pretty accurate and it breaks it down in a way that easy for not only kids, but adults as well. They also tied emotion with memory, which was an interesting and unique connection I thought. Great post!

  4. sjohns25

    I have heard about the movie Inside Out but have never seen it now I think I am going to go watch it to see if I can relate more to watch you are comparing to. Disney in my opinion does a great job trying to relate to the real world in a way that make children able to understand it at a basic level. I really like how you compared it to not being able to rewind like on our TV. Which I can really relate to because sometimes I remember something from the past and sometimes I do remember the same event different ways dependent of where I am and what I am doing in that moment. I cant wait to watch this movie so I can really pull more ideas together. Thanks for sharing!

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